Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio tells Newsmax that, if his fellow Arizona Sheriff Clarence Dupnik were an appointed chief of police instead of an elected official, he would be “fired tomorrow” for comments he’s made about the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others on Saturday.
Arpaio also complains that people are using the tragedy “for their own political agenda,” and says officials such as Dupnik should “shut our mouth” about the case.
Arpaio, whose county includes most of the Phoenix metropolitan area, has been called “America’s toughest sheriff.” He has limited county inmates to two meals a day, banned “sexually explicit material” in prison, reinstituted chain gangs, and set up a “tent city” as an extension of the Maricopa County Jail.
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Pima County Sheriff Dupnik has sought to link vitriolic rhetoric in politics, and talk radio hosts such as Rush Limbaugh, with the actions of Jared Loughner, who is accused of killing six and injuring 14 in Tucson.
Asked about Dupnik’s efforts, Arpaio says: “I don’t like to criticize my colleagues, but he’s elected and I presume he says what he wants to say. I don’t agree with it.
“I’m a former top federal law enforcement official and understand you have to be very careful when you’re conducting an investigation to make sure there’s no pretrial publicity that may affect the case and give the perpetrator a chance to use comments made, especially by the chief investigator, which happens to be the sheriff.
“Sheriffs are elected, like I am, thank God. I’m sure if he was a police chief he’d probably be fired tomorrow. I’m not trying to defend him, but he’s the one that runs that sheriff’s office. I do not.
“I don’t want to keep talking about politics. I don’t think we should do so over this tragedy.
“But I think this has gone into politics now. People are using this for their own political agenda. I don’t think that’s right. I think we should let the criminal justice system do its job and not have too much pretrial publicity to help this guy and give him a chance to defend himself, and probably utilize statements that have been made to his benefit to try to get out of this.
“I think we have to very careful about what we say, especially law enforcement officials or government officials. I think right now I think we ought to shut our mouth and let the justice system take its course.”
Referring to assertions by some that Sarah Palin and others on the right are somehow to blame for Loughner’s actions, Arpaio tells Newsmax: “I don’t think it’s fair.
“I have to say that I have been threatened constantly, threatened by elected officials, calling me Nazi, Hitler, every name in the book. Yet I haven’t heard anybody speak out in the Democrat administration saying that’s not right.
“Why are they blaming her? They put me in [cross hairs]. They put me in KKK uniforms. They call me Hitler and everything else. They say I should be dead. They’ve got rewards out for me. So why isn’t anybody talking about this sheriff? I’m talking about the Democrats. They’re investigating me, the Justice Department, but why aren’t they concerned about this sheriff?”
Sheriff Dupnik said after the shootings that Arizona is a mecca for anger, hatred, and bigotry. Asked whether his claim is related to supporters of Arizona’s tough new law cracking down on illegal immigrants, Arpaio responds: “I imagine he’s talking about illegal immigration because he opposed the new law and said he was not going to enforce it.
“I don’t know what he’s thinking about, but if I were a betting guy, I probably would believe that he’s talking about the rhetoric dealing with the illegal immigration problem.”
Early in Dupnik’s career, he suggested that citizens in parts of Pima County should buy guns to protect themselves because his department lacked the resources. Now he is highly critical of Arizona’s gun culture, while Arpaio is critical of efforts at gun control.
“I believe in the Second Amendment. I believe citizens should have the right to carry a weapon if they want to,” Arpaio says.
“I don’t know why the sheriff is worried about the weapons. But he’s not alone. The majority of police chiefs will say the same thing.
“I don’t say the same thing.”
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